Born In: Wichita, Kansas, United States
Gale Eugene Sayers was a professional American footballer and a successful entrepreneur. Athletics was in his blood and both his brothers were also successful athletes. Sayers excelled in sports at school and went on to join Kansas University’s football team where he was nicknamed Kansas Comet. During this time, he came into the national spotlight as a player. Gale Sayers was drafted by the Chicago Bears and played with them throughout his career. His football days ended abruptly after a series of serious injuries to his knees and ankles. Post this, he became an entrepreneur and saw great success. Sayers was known for his tremendous speed, his ability to accelerate fast and for eluding his opponents. He played only seven seasons but is considered one of the greatest players that ever played. As a person, Sayers was a very unassuming team player, and a loyal friend. In his later life, he and his wife became prominent philanthropists and supported many charities working specially for youth and children.
Also Known As: Gale Eugene Sayers
Died At Age: 77
Spouse/Ex-: Ardythe Bullard (m. 1973–2020), Linda McNeil (m. 1962–1973)
father: Roger Winfield Sayers
mother: Bernice (Ross) Sayers, Bernice Sayers
Born Country: United States
place of death: Wakarusa, Indiana, United States
Cause of Death: Dementia
education: Omaha Central High School, Midwestern college
Gale Sayers was born on May 30, 1943, in Wichita, Kansas. His parents were Roger Earl Sayers and Bernice Ross. His father, Roger, worked as a car mechanic and also and did farming for a while.
Gale’s elder brother Roger was a track-and-field athlete. His younger brother Ron played football for San Diego Chargers and American Football League.
Gale spent his growing-up years in Omaha, Nebraska. He attended Omaha Central High School. He excelled in athletics and was one of the best running backs and long jumper. In 1961, while in high school Gale set a state long-jump record of 7.58 metres.
Gale Sayers started playing college-level football at the University of Kansas. He had been recruited by several colleges and had decided to go to the University of Iowa. However, when the Iowa Head Coach, Jerry Burns did not have time to meet Sayers, he decided to join Kansas.
In 1962, he played for the first time in the University Team. He achieved an average of 7.1 yards-per-carry average, which was unparalleled in the NCAA for that football season.
In 1963, Gale Sayers set a new record for the NCAA Division 1 FBS by running 99-yards against Nebraska. With a total of 917 rushing yards, he had the highest rushing yards in that season in the Big Eight Conference.
Gale Sayers received the first-team All American recognition twice in 1963 and in 1964. The honours catapulted him into national fame.
After leaving college, Gale Sayers was picked up by the Chicago Bears in the first round of the NFL draft in 1965. At the same time, he was also picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFL draft.
Gale Sayers decided to sign up with the Chicago Bears. In his first years with the team, he created an NFL record of 22 touchdowns. He also had 2,272 combined rushing, receiving, and kick-return yards which was the highest for an NFL rookie.
He received the Rookie of the Year honours for his brilliant first year. His coach, George Halas, later said that no one had ever seen a rookie play that well before.
In 1966 with 1231 yards, Sayers won the rushing title. It was the first time since 1949 that a halfback had won a rushing title. He won the title again in 1969.
Under the supervision of Halas, Gale Sayers became a star football player and was named All-Pro. He held this title for five years from 1965 to 1969.
On November 3, 1968, Gale Sayers carried 24 times for 205 yards against Green Bay Packers making it the most productive rushing yardage of his career.
Gale Sayers’ 1968 football season ended when he suffered multiple ligament injuries on his right knee. He had to undergo surgery and a rehabilitation program to aid his recovery.
Sayers came back after his injury for the 1969 football season. His speed and acceleration were less than before yet he managed to gain 1032 rushing yards and was the only player to go over 1000 rushing yards.
Recognising his brilliant comeback, the United Press International named him NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year.
In the 1970 football preseason Gale Sayers suffered bone bruises on his left knee. He continued to play with his injury but his productivity was greatly reduced and he had to sit out for a few games.
When he played against the Vikings after sitting out for the previous games, he was unable to chase the Vikings lineman. He also managed to aggravate his knee injury.
Gale Sayers had to undergo surgery to fix his left knee. While waiting to heal, he studied to be a stockbroker. He entered a Paine Webber training program and achieved the second-highest number in sales.
Gale Sayers came back for the 1971 preseason after his second knee surgery and subsequent rehabilitation. His coach slowly got him back into action and he was able to perform to his satisfaction in his first game against the New Orleans Saints.
Within a week of his comeback game, Sayers sustained an injury to his ankle. The injury was bad enough for him to miss the rest of the football season.
Sayers came back for the 1972 preseason. However, he struggled to perform and fumbled in his carries. He retired from professional football before the 1972 NFL season.
After retiring from football in 1972, Gale Sayers joined the University of Kansas and worked in the athletic department. He worked there for nearly four years.
Gale Sayers became the athletic director at the Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 1976. He retired from this position in 1981.
In 1984, Gale Sayers founded the Crest Computer Supply Company which is now known as Sayers 40, Inc. The technology company became very successful and has offices in multiple states and counts Fortune 1000 companies as its client.
Gale Sayers was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977. He was the youngest player to receive this honour.
In 1999 Ernst & Young included him among the Technology/Communications Entrepreneurs of the Year. The same year he also became part of the Chicago Area Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame.
Gale Sayers got engaged to his girlfriend Linda McNeill from high school before he went off to the University. The two were married a year later on June 10, 1962. While Sayers was studying at the University, his wife took up a job and also helped him with his studies. They had three children. The couple divorced in 1973.
He married Ardythe Bullard on December 1, 1973.
Gale Sayers and fellow Chicago Bears player Brian Piccolo shared a close friendship. Piccolo helped him with his rehabilitation after his injury. When Piccolo was diagnosed with cancer Sayers supported him throughout his illness till his death. Their friendship is depicted in the film Brian’s Song.
Gale Sayers was diagnosed with dementia in 2013. His condition is believed to have been triggered by his football career. He died at the age of 77 on September 23, 2020, in Wakarusa, Indiana.
Gale Sayers co-authored two autobiographies I Am Third in 1970 and Sayers: My Life and Times in 2007.
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